budget, meet september. september, meet budget.

True confessions time, shall we?

We eat out a lot. I don’t mean like sit-down restaurants with huge portions, I just mean we seem to do it on-the-go or at coffee dates or lunch dates or sometimes it’s take-out or coffee drive-through or take’n’bake pizza or coffee from the cafe in Target or food courts while shopping or a craving for Chipotle burritos or a craving for an iced venti decaf white mocha with a half a pump of hazelnut. Hypothetically.

But something about it not being those sit-down restaurants made us feel like it was ok, you know?Like as long as it’s not the Olive Garden we’re not wasting our money. We’re not being extravagant, we’re just being busy (and other lies I tell myself…) but then we took a closer look at our budget.

You ready?

We spent almost $600 on food last month – eating out and grocery store.

Holy crap, guys. HOLY CRAP. Granted, some of that was spent while we were traveling or out of town which is somewhat inevitable (hello, NYC and Oregon trips) but $600 is completely unacceptable for a family of 3 (2.5 if we’re honest) to spend on food in a given month. This has got to stop.

In reality, we’ve known it needed to stop for a while now. But summer is summer, you know? We’ve been to several states and on several trips and all those yummy iced coffee drinks (excuse excuse excuse…)

…I don’t care if summer is summer, a budget is a budget. And we were breaking ours.

So, September 1st has been circled on our calendar for a few weeks now. It is O My Family’s day to change. For the entire month of September we will not pay a single cent to eat out.

Cold turkey, friends (and I’m not talking about the lunch meat in the fridge). No more. None. No coffee, no Noodles & Co., no Jimmy Johns, no Papa Murphy’s Pizza. None of it. For a month.

As I write this, I am in a bookstore cafe and I promise you, the toffee mocha frappuccino and Chonga bagels are calling my blessed name. This is not going to be easy. I can count on both hands the number of functions and events we have at restaurants this month where we may be the only ones not ordering something. This is not going to be easy. Lately, this chasing a toddler thing has me plum tuckered out by 4:00 and I have little oomph left to make dinner. Usually we resort to take out at that point. This is not going to be easy.

So far I have thought of a few plans to help our family succeed at this challenge:

-Once a month cooking (on a smaller scale): I have never attempted OAMC, where you spend an entire day in the kitchen preparing meal after meal (but it’s more efficient because you prep and clean once, and often dishes have similar ingredients that you prepare together) and then freezing them. Then, the night before you plan to eat it, you take the meal out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to thaw (or put it on the counter by 9am the day of). Now, I don’t think I can handle a whole month at a time being that I’ve never ever tackled something of this magnitude, but I really want to try a 2 week version. I hope to do that this weekend which should help with O crud, it’s 4 and what’s for dinner? O’clock.

-Grocery ready-to-go’s: I don’t know if this is technically cheating, but in the back of my mind I anticipate buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on one of those nights that we would normally resort to Chipotle. A frozen pizza or 2 will probably sneak its way into my freezer as well.

-Bringing snacks with us: I already do it for OBaby everyday – I have enough on hand for him to constitute a meal when we leave the house. Some snack sticks, some fruit, water, sometimes I even bring a small cooler bag (the one that came with my breastpump) with cheese sticks and hard boiled eggs in it. I need to start including enough for myself (and DanO if he’s with us) because being out and about and hungry is our main down fall.

-Avoid, when possible: yes, social functions often occur at eating establishments and yes I will continue to be social, but when it’s within my control this month, I will try to avoid cafes and stores with food courts as playdate settings. I will opt instead for libraries (although those increasingly have coffee shops and in-house restaurants), beaches, houses, and parks.

Sure, I’ve thought of some strategies but friends, (say it with me:) this is not going to be easy. But neither was looking at our budget last month. So.

Do you have any help/tips/advice/encouragement/motivation/experience to share? I could use it, because… well…

This is not going to be easy.

70 Responses to “budget, meet september. september, meet budget.”

  1. Erin

    the once a month cooking thing will help A LOT. I know this, because I haven’t done it all summer and our food budget and last-minute-meal-crises have been creeping up all summer. Back in the saddle again! :)

  2. harmskills

    you could make your own iced coffee drinks for your 4pm pickup. or iced tea or something. host a dinner party if you want to be social. (or even do a potluck) we keep a stash of frozen trader joes fare in the freezer for nights when we have nothing but dont want to order in. their frozen pizzas are pretty good. add a salad and thats dinner.

    as for freezer, even if you find a good recipe, just double it and freeze some portions in small tupperwares. maybe do slow cooker too?

  3. Nicole

    I need this help too, and I think you just motivated me to try this. We are a family of 2 adults, two kids, and a baby. I know that if we eat out at a fast food resturant we are looking at spending atleast $25….thats CRAZY! I am sure that last month we were way over $600 and that is just nonsense. Good luck!

  4. Sarah P.

    We wouldn’t eat if it weren’t for our slow cooker! I have an 18 month old and I know exactly what you mean about not feeling up to cooking dinner after chasing her around the house all day. I have much more energy first thing in the morning! Slow cooker recipes usually require very little prep…. just dump the ingredients in the crock pot. I usually do this in the morning while Avery is eating breakfast in her high chair. It only takes a few minutes, the house smells delicious all day, and dinner is ready when hubby walks through the door 8 hours later! Kudos to you for reigning in the budget (are you familiar with Dave Ramsey? He’s our hero)!

  5. Samantha

    We are also a family of three (2.5) and I’m sure we spent way over $600 last month. My problems that (1) we live in an are with a high cost of living, (2) we eat out way too much and (3) I go to the high priced organic stores and don’t shop for deals. I am going back to work next week and I’m afraid it will get even worse so vie been thinking about the exact same thing. Thanks for the suggestions.

    I’ve heard that if you can get a friend or two to do the OAMC with you it makes it even easier because you just make double or triple batches and then swap meals.

  6. Jessy

    Quitting cold turkey, wow, I don’t think we could do that. I love the idea of once a month cooking, I am actually going to be doing that this weekend to prepare for a baby coming this month, if it works, I will continue with it. One thing we have done that has helped a ton is, when I do my bi-weekly grocery shopping, I buy two extra meals. That way, when I don’t make it to the store when I planned on, I still have a dinner planned and have the stuff for it. Crock-pot cooking is always easy and saves a lot of time, plus, it makes the house smell great. Good luck.

  7. LCW

    We live on a tight budget. Our grocery budget is $250 a month for 3 (2.5) people. I can usually grocery shop every two weeks and I spend about $120ish dollars. I meal plan before heading to the grocery store and use coupons. I find meals I can prep ahead of time or crockpot meals. Also leftovers will be your friend. I can cook 3-4 meals and it’ll last us a whole week. I keep fresh fruit in the house for the baby, and frozen vegetables for the work week. I have a recipe website. http://www.mommasmunchies.wakingupwilliams.com and they’re very easy, kid/baby friendly recipes. We rarely eat out because it’s just not affordable for us.

    I always leave the house with snacks for us. Always. It started while I was pregnant because I was always hungry and because I’m still breastfeeding I’m still always hungry. So we don’t really have a reason to stop and spend money on food while out.

  8. Suzy

    We’ve had to tighten our belts…so to speak, with groceries. We’ve been operating on a $300 a month for a family of six. That covers food, toiletries, laundry detergent and diapers(my youngest only needs a diaper at night). At first I thought there was no way we could do this but….WE DID!!! I started making my own laundry detergent which I LOVE! It costs me only $1.24 for 2 gallons and with a family of 6 we go thru alot of laundry detergent. This saves me alot, I also started cutting my dryer sheets in 1/3’s and it works great too! As far as menu planning goes I plan the same things for breakfast and lunch each week. So for example Monday’s is pancakes for breakfast and macaroni and cheese w/ veggies for lunch. Tuesdays is toast and eggs for breakfast and lunch is sandwiches and crackers and fruit. I made a laminated menu plan and because I have lunch and dinner already planned each week then all I have to figure out is dinner. THE KEY TO KEEPING IN A FOOD BUDGET IT PLANNING AHEAD! I find that if I don’t plan my menu and shop for that menu that I almost always overspend. We’ve also gotten better at eating leftover’s. We use to just throw away SO MUCH FOOD! Also, my hubby has started taking his lunch instead of eating out everyday. And if we go somewhere the kids and I pack a lunch instead of stopping at the golden arches. It requires me being organized but it’s worth it. Hope this helps.

  9. Tiffany

    Great post Allison, I totally needed to read this. Hubs and I argue quite often on the overspending…it has to stop. I loved reading the comments too, great suggestions.

  10. Julie the Army Wife

    I love eating out. Love it. But our budget just can’t take much of that right now either. Good for you guys trying to go cold turkey. I am trying to come up with some “rules” for us too. Like you guys we don’t go to a lot of restaurants but I do like going out to lunch after church on Sundays. I am trying to find some balance with it all. But those trips to Starbucks add up quickly.

  11. mama23bears

    we usually cook double of things we know freeze well (sauces,soups,casseroles,etc) but i have 3 cookbooks that i highly recommend, 2 of which are based on once a month cooking….

    1.Once A Month Cooking (obvious huh?)
    2.Don’t Panic,Dinner’s in the Freezer
    3. Cheap, Fast, Good

    i’m not gonna lie and say this is all healthy stuff but it’s mostly better than take out. also, in te recipes that need chicken for the once a month cooking, we use a Costco rotisserie chicken for a few of them. it just saves a step and that chicken is wonderful for the price!

    good luck this month! i know it’s hard but you might find after a month it’s not that big of a deal anymore!

  12. Adventures In Babywearing

    I admire your plan! For us, money is so tight, it’s not an option to stop at the drive thru or to eat on playdates, the money just isn’t there. So, I grocery shop more often (to keep fresh fruit and veggies always on hand) and make sure there’s always something to eat (I cook in large batches and we eat off that during the week. I LOVE LEFTOVERS!) Thankfully Ivy & Gray (who are home with me) eat the same things I do, so I cook things we love to order when we go out- hummus, soups, sandwiches, baked lemon chicken, etc- it’s way cheaper to make at home and truly good for the soul. :)


  13. Jenn

    I am so with you on this! Our budget is the same way. I finally broke down and admitted that after spending 12 hours away from home (including driving two hours) each day, I am too tired to make the meals we once enjoyed. So, we’ve resorted to quick meals instead. Ready-made stuff from the grocery store deli, frozen pizzas, hot dogs, etc. I spent LESS at the grocery store our last trip (plus, I load coupons onto my Kroger card, which helps); so I’m encouraged that this might actually work. Also, we HAVE to set aside a small amount for eating out (even if it’s just $10 for coffee). We tried to avoid it completely, but we just felt like we were depriving ourselves and then we would give up and eat out for 2 weeks (kind of like dieting). I used to do OAMC, and it was AWESOME! It wasn’t so bad spending the day in the kitchen (even better if you do it with someone), and I was SET for the month. I just need to kick my tail into high gear some Saturday and start it back up. Sounds like you have some good plans in place. Good luck!

  14. Peek Into Our Nest

    Blah I’m right there along with you. We use the Dave Ramsey system so I have money set out in envelopes for certain things (i.e. groceries, restaurants, etc.). That way we determine what we are willing to spend in a month on certain things. When it comes to eating out it is not much for the month. It helps because we become a lot pickier about when we want to get food-on-the-go more often, because we want to save that money for special occasions. Then when the money is gone its gone. Seems to work for us, but as for cold turkey….I could be the one using some tips, lol.

    Ok probably a really stupid question to ask, but what do you plan on freezing your meals in? I’ve heard of this before and always wondered.

  15. Kellyn

    We do the OAMC, and it has made a HUGE difference in our everyday planning. The months that I do the pre-cooking day we save a TON in out of house eating. I love it!

    We too bring tons of snacks wherever we go. I pre-make the snack bags each time I go to the store, that way all I have to do is grab and go. This is also good for me, with portion control. I literally count out each cracker/raisin/whatever to make sure it is the actual serving size, and not what I would be able to eat. That made a huge difference in how I eat period.

  16. Melanie

    I’m a new reader to your blog and this totally challenged me! I remember my dad saying when he was a kid, they went out once a year!! Wow – it was a big event. Now we do it all the time. So much easier but ouch, does it ever add up! I saw this on your twitter on here a few days ago and told my husband I want to do this too! So…no eating out in September for us either! So far so good! lol I also cook in bulk – buy a huge thing of ground beef, or other meat and go crazy for an afternoon while baby sleeps. I’ll make a huge batch of buns and freeze most of it. I also make our own bread – just toss the ingredients in the bread maker before bed, takes 5 minutes or less.

  17. mama23bears

    oh, another thing you could do is brown 1-2 lbs of ground beef or ground turkey and freeze just that. then when you go to cook, it’s already 1/2 done. oh, and chop a few onions and freeze that. takes away the chopping step and you’d be surprised how often chopped onion is needed in a recipe.

    we do alot of pre cooking and batch cooking. we have a very tight budget with little to no wiggle room & this has made a huge difference for us. i have lots of little tips if you have any questions.

  18. Susan

    I know that it sounds OCD, but once a week I sit down and plan out what we’ll have for dinner for that entire week. I save these menus in case I have a brain freeze when working on next week’s menu. It has really helped to already have an answer to that 4pm “what’s for dinner?” question. It’s a pain the first few times that you do it but gets a lot easier as the weeks go by.

    Also, another tip is to have the Food Network on the tv from time to time. I get lots of inspiration and recipes from there.

    Finally, I second the crockpot idea. There’s a great website (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com) that has some wonderful crockpot recipes. She even has a cookbook out that’s pretty good, but you can find most of those recipes on her blog. Get yourself a programmable crockpot that switches to “warm” after it’s done cooking. It’s a really timesaver. With fall and winter coming up, it’s a great time to break out the crockpot for some slow cooked meals.

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog, by the way!

    • m @ random musings

      crockpots are a must must must for warm weather months too! I have no desire to turn stove/oven on when the weather is 90F+ and I have ac running ^_^ That and grilling…

  19. Tara @ This Military Mama

    I know what you mean. We are always fighting our budget! We made a commitment to not eat out at McDonald’s for a year. A YEAR! We eat there sooo often it’s ridiculous! We have eaten out less because of it and we also know it’s a healthy decision too.

    But get this! I used to work at Starbucks and that iced venti decaf white mocha with a half a pump of hazelnut is actually really easy to make at home, if you want the recipe. {You bet your mocha I remember how to make it! and most of the other drinks too lol}. Just email me if you want it! :)

  20. Andrea

    I feed my family of 4 a “green” diet – seasonal, local, organic – for $15/day. I cook from scratch. I shop the sales. I go meatless.

    I do have a Starbucks weakness. Pumpkin Spice lattes are almost here! Then come the Gingerbread lattes! I registered my Starbucks card on Starbucks.com and loaded it. Not only do I get the occasional freebie, but once the monthly card allowance is gone, I don’t go again until the next month. This has been a good way to keep that in check.

  21. jen

    please tell tara to share that recipe with me too!
    good luck.
    with work starting … and the photo business getting bigger … and the kids (oh!the!kids!) … i’m struggling too.
    i completely understand.
    i’ve always wanted to do themed dinner parties with a group of people … which would make me feel like i wasn’t missing out on something …

  22. Darlene

    I actually don’t think 600 is that bad?? Maybe Colorado is more expensive, because on just groceries alone we spend about 150-175 a week and that’s not counting all the coffees out and lunch at the foodcourt every tuesday and everything else! But we do shop mostly organic which is more expensive but we also only have three- two adults and a just turned 3 year old. And if Tara @ Military Mama knows how to make a carmel macchiato at home I’d LOVE that recipe! Those $4/drinks 3-4 times a week hurt!

  23. Sarah

    If you’re serious about budgeting, mint.com is a really great website. It evaluates your bank statements and puts them into categories based on where you spent money. In the past few months, they’ve made it more flexible so you can set your own budgets, goals, etc. Quitting restaurants cold turkey for a month might be a good experiment, but long term, having a set eat out budget will help create a lifestyle where you can still enjoy it on occasion.

    • AllisonO

      We have just started using mint! They have an app for DanO and my Android phones, too so we can update on the go. I’m excited to use that tool.

      • Susan

        What does DanO think of the security issues surrounding Mint? There has been a lot of negative feedback in the industry (sorry – I’m in finance/tax) regarding the need to handover the passwords to your bank accounts. I know DanO works in the field of software so he might have some insights to share that would be beneficial. Right now I’m uncomfortable recommending this site to my clients.

        • DanO

          I think anytime you give out your passwords it could potentially be bad news. That being said, I do think that Mint.com is secure enough for me to trust them with my passwords. One argument being made is that if something does happen on your account, you can notice it faster and reduce the damage. Also, Mint.com’s security is on par with the security provided by bank websites. An interesting article: http://themedium.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/27/addressing-security-concerns-on-mintcom/

          While I think using Mint.com could increase your risk of passwords being stolen, I think the probability is so low that it is worth the risk to use the services they provide.

  24. Tristina

    O I hear you… We’re in the same boat here.

    Some things we do?

    1. Shop at the farmer’s market. It’s waaaay cheaper than the grocery store usually – especially for produce. I can usually get two weeks worth of food for about $100 if I plan right.
    2. Meal plan – go through the cookbooks and cooking magazines and online with a calendar or a notepad and write down meals. We usually do 2 vegetarian, 2 poultry, 2 beef, and 1 fish. Try to make things do double duty – like a rotisserie chicken can be used for chicken salad and tacos.
    3. Buy good coffee and store brand flavored syrup/creamer. It may not be the exact same as the cafe but it will help with the cravings!
    4. Slow cookers rule.
    5. Coupons are your friend.

    Good luck!!

  25. Lynzie

    I don’t do the once a month cooking, but I cook on Sunday my lunch for the week (I work, so maybe for DanO?) and I make out a meal plan for the week. I always figure in what’s planned for that day- is there a function or some chore or task that’s going to wear me out (outside of the normal?)? I use those days to make the quick and easy things, like crockpot meals, or (oh no) beanie weenies or boxed mac n cheese. Sometimes planning a big salad with chicken in it is an easy meal that takes NO time to make. Also- Mike and I take turns on cooking.

    I love making the meal plan. I don’t have to think “what’s for dinner” and I can plan ahead (like maybe cook the meal tues when I have some extra energy, because I just KNOW on thursday I won’t have it!).

    I also plan in one day a week to eat out- usually reserved for grocery day! haha. This gives me the little splurge without killing the bank.

  26. SarahG

    Love all the suggestions in comments. I will have join the gang and say crock pot cooking is awesome. As a full time working Mom, nothing is better than getting home at 5:30 to a meal (mostly) done and smelling great. Another thing that ahs worked well for me is to buy frozen goodies from Trader Joes. I’ll buy the veggies with a sauce, quickly saute chicken and make rice, meal is done! There is generally enough for leftovers for one lunch as well.
    GOod luck, I’d love to hear an update and what is working.

  27. Sarah

    I love my crockpot! It is a wonderful feeling to have dinner going at 9am! Also, I try to do some dinner prep (put a casserole together) in the morning whether I am using a slow cooker or not because the kids seem to entertain themselves better in the morning. And, leftovers! I try to eat smaller portions and so does my hubby so that we can have the meal again and I am not having to cook or think about cooking every night. Or I make a little extra but not huge batchs just add a few more chicken breasst or whatever to make it stretch farther.

    We also have a “resturant” category in our budget. That way, we have some wiggle room but also we can be disciplined about when and where we spend it. When it is gone, it is gone and we are done for the month.

  28. Andrea

    I go to a place called Let’s Dish that has locations around the metro area (I’m also in Mpls). It’s essentially the once a month cooking idea, but you go there to prepare. For my husband and myself, it’s quite reasonably priced. I would check it out if I were you! The benefit of this versus doing all the cooking at home is that you’re saving $$ by not purchasing a lot of ingredients that you may not get much use out of (spices, for instance) and there’s nothing to clean up! The website is http://www.letsdish.com

    Good luck, I love reading the blogs of other Mpls moms :)

  29. CJ

    Oh…thats a hard one! A few weeks ago, I realized that we were dropping in at the store just about every day, if not multiple times a day – and while some of that was for needed things (fresh produce, etc) those $20 trips sure add up. One thing that we do (and we have had troubles eating out too much as well – dont we all?) is buying stuff when its on sale, and freezing it. Not necessarily cooking it into meals (of course that might be more helpful with a young kid!) and then being able to cook from the freezer – a basic meal. Good luck!

  30. Hillary

    My husband and I have this same problem. We rarely go out to a nice sit-down restaurant but we stop for little things (lunch, ice cream, coffee, etc.) way more than we should. We’ve been making a conscious effort to cut back and it’s been going pretty well.
    Our biggest problem is avoiding cravings. We’ve been turning to copycat recipe sites in these cases to make recipes that are similar (but usually healthier) than our favorites. We especially love making “homemade chipotle.” It actually tastes very similar to the real thing for a fraction of the cost and calories. :)

  31. Savannah

    Someone may already have said this, but something I do before I go shopping is sit down with my cookbooks and recipe box and make a list of about 14 meals that we all like and haven’t had in a while. As I write down the name of the recipe on one list, I write down all the ingredients I don’t have on my shopping list. I put a star next to the recipes that use ingredients that will rot quickly, so I don’t waste my money. Then when 4pm rolls around I can just look at my handy dandy list and make whatever sounds yummiest. It takes a LOT of the stress out of cooking for me, because I already have everything there and ready. If I’m really on the ball, I prep the meal throughout the day when I have a spare minute. For example, I’ll make sure the onions are chopped and the cheese is grated and the chicken is thawed etc.

    Good luck on your quest! It is hard, but totally do-able! My husband and I practically never eat out and it is a HUGE savings. Totally worth the sacrifice!

  32. Manda

    Um, I think you all would fall off your chairs if you knew how much we spent in groceries and eating out. We’re a family of 5 (okay 4.5) and the baby is still on formula and of course there is diapers. I SO need to get control of our budget. Cuz, if we don’t, I’ll have to go back to work and I don’t want to do that! I LOVE the idea of once a month cooking. I’m so checking out mama23bear’s book recommendations. Thank you for posting this!

  33. Bonnie

    I find this topic overwhelming. My fam spends too much eating out, just like the rest of you, but I can barely plan for tonight, a few hours in advance — so getting a whole month’s worth of meals together all at once? Making my head spin! I might need lessons in planning and organization. Along with a little medication.

  34. Susan

    I find using my crockpot at least once a week helps – and of course planning ahead. I’m lucky in that I have a chest freezer, so I can buy meats in bulk from Sam’s Club and then repackage them when I get home to the smaller serving sizes. I always have ground beef, chicken breasts, and some type of fish in the freezer – all of which are super easy to make into a good dinner in a short amount of time. Maybe you need to revamp your recipes? I grew up on a farm in Northern WI, so casseroles were always a standby meal for me growing up, and I’ve continued that practice today. Plus it’s an easy way to use leftover vegetables up!

    I also have a two tiered steamer which is great since I work and many times don’t get home until almost 7pm. This week I was able to walk in the door, setup the steamer and threw in some salmon on the bottom and some corn on the cob in the top section. In 25 minutes – it’s was all done. I had leftover rice in the fridge which I heated up and that was dinner.

    I make large batches of taco meat and freeze. If I make lasagna I always make two pans and freeze one for later. Like mamabear, I cook ground beef ahead of time and freeze by itself too – and I keep onions and peppers cut up on the fridge for tossing into salads, scrambled eggs, etc. (have you considered breakfast for dinner one night a week? Nothing better!).

    And one last idea – get yourself some copies of the Quick Cooking magazine from Reiman Publishing. They have lots of great ideas for dinners and most only take 30 minutes from start to finish. They have a website too http://www.tasteofhome.com

  35. Sara

    I Totally Hear you! I am a married college student (we’ve chatted a few times about this) and its freekin’ tough. While we don’t have children yet, our budget is small and tight. I will tell you that making and freezing meals is one of the best things I’ve ever done (I started doing it last year).

    During the summer, I make jams, freeze veggies and fruits. I also brown up and freeze ground beef with onions and peppers, so that when I need a fast meal, thats one less step I need to do (can be turned into tacos, lasangas, spagetti, ect). Lasagna frrezes really well, and so do homeade pizzas (sounds like you a pizza fan!- I have a great easy recipe for the dough- email me if you want it)… Also look for ways to buy things like flour and sugar in bulk. They are basics! Oh and because I use the same sauce for spaggetti and lasanga, When I make spagetti, I always use the leftover sause to make a lasanga!

    • Alana

      I Want your pizza dough recipe! :) That sounds awesome! Do you make up the pizza and freeze it? Or just make the dough and then use it to make pizza?

      • Sara

        I make the pizza itself and freeze it. and also, when ever making it I make a ton of it because everyone devors it and it makes AWESOME left overs.

        For 1 pizza crust:

        1 cup warm water

        mix 1 TBS inst yeast and let stand for 10 minutes minimum

        Then mix in the following:

        1 TBS olive oil
        1/4 tsp salt
        1 tsp sugar (this is the secret ingredient, don’t knock it or forget it)
        1tsp garlic
        1/2 tsp pizza or Italian seasonings (I actually just eyeball the last two)

        Now pour into 2 1/2 cups pre-sifted flour and mix gently with fork.

        Leave in large bowl with cover (saran wrap works great if rubberbanded down, or taped down) for at least 45 minutes in a warm spot or until it doubles.

        When rolling out the dough, spray your pans and sprinkle on some corn meal (also secret ingredient and magical too!)

        Then for sauce, I am lazy and buy cans of pizza sauce, some make their own, others use spagetti sauce) I get about 3 pizzas from 1 reg. can. Then top with motz cheese and whatever toppings.

        If I have a little orange cheese I use some for the top sprinkle, if not a touch more motz.

        I always make a minimum of 3 pizzas, and the other day had 11 people at my house and made 6 pizzas!!! hardly any left overs. I think I can make about 8 pizzas from a 5 lb bag of motz (usually about 11$) but thats the most expensive part.

        And as far as freezing goes: I would make them and freeze them right on the pan, once frozen, take off pan and wrap tight. When unfreeze, take out, unwrap, and place on pan right away. I would allow some time for the pizza to thaw.

        I Hope you and yours enjoy this recipe, its always a joy for us! Great for movie nights, and great for crowds!

  36. Grace @ Arms Wide Open

    the only advice i have is to try to cook earlier in the day…. during Obaby’s nap. Then reheat at dinner. I like you am also spent by the time 5:00 ish rolls around and that is also when S is clingy/hyper/cranky/starving. So when i can i cook during his nap, early afternoon, when the house is quiet and i can listen to music or an audiobook and cook in peace.

  37. Cat

    OAMC is great! I don’t do it anymore (lazy, new baby, too much planning!), but I did it for several months a couple years ago. I did it with a friend and we’d plan the menu together, grocery shop together, and make all the meals together-we spent 5 or 6 hours prepping meals (freeze flat in ziploc freezer bags) and then had about 15 meals, which if you eat leftovers every other day, would feed us for a month! We did lots of chicken marinades, soups, and crockpot meals. Good luck!

  38. The Mom Venture Blog

    Wow, look at all the comments! lol I know what it’s like though. We used to eat out all the time before we had kids, and then after getting pregnant with our first my husband got laid off from his job so we had to batten down the hatches pretty quickly. Of course once we got back on our feet a bit financially we started eating out more again, especially having 2 kids and me not feeling like cooking because the house was a mess and I’d be pretty tired so we’d just go out.

    The past year we’ve cut down on the eating out quite a lot. I actually enjoy eating at home and don’t mind if it’s just something simple and thrown together, but my husband has a really hard time giving up on fast food. With 3 kids now, and even less money, I’ve had to really watch the grocery bill even more, and it’s only going to get harder as the boys get older!

    So what we do now is instead of quitting cold turkey, we’ve allowed hubby a budget of $60 a month for eating out and that includes his pop and snacks he likes to get during the day because he’s a delivery driver so he’s out and about and he just keeps the cash on him instead of using the card. I’m working on trying to make sure I buy stuff like gatorade or juice for him to take to work with him so he doesn’t need to stop and get pop every day.

    I just eat out very occasionally, but most of the time the kids and I eat at home even if daddy decides to eat out. Though, I need to make a budget for me and the kids too and keep that cash on me.

    We also have a designated Pizza Night, which is Wednesday night since that is church service and the most convenient night to go out to eat.

    We haven’t got the system down perfect yet, but it has definitely cut the eating out bill from around $250 a month to more like $120 or so a month (I include 7-11 Slurpees, fast food, sit down restaurants, and the hubbys pop snacks during the day, and going out for icecream, etc…)

    I also started putting ice cream on my grocery list and just buy the big 1 gallon which is usually on sale for $3.99 at Freddy’s so we aren’t as tempted to go out for ice cream and spend more :) Plus I buy snacks at Freddy’s too that we might otherwise pay more for, or at least the hubby would, at a convenience store.

    I like the idea of the once a month or once a week cooking, but I still have yet to implement it. Now that I have another freezer, I think I’ll try it again.

    Our grocery bill is usually around $250-$300(excluding fast food), though I keep trying to shoot for $200 a month, but that just isn’t working anymore since the boys are eating more! That’s for 5 of us. I think I do pretty well in the grocery department. Making a list is a MUST and making a menu plan is also a MUST.

    I do my menu plan more consitantly than I used to and I try to do it weekly. Makes it easier to deal with.

    Anyway, it’s probably not as well put together as others, but those are the things we do to cut back!

    You can do it!

    • The Mom Venture Blog

      Oh, yes, and someone else mentioned Dave Ramsey…Definitely should get his books! We haven’t been sticking to his plan like we should, but just from reading through the money makeover workbook, I’ve been able to consistently implement some of the things in there. If we would strictly stick to it, I know we’d be so much better off!

  39. Alana

    WOW! Cold turkey… girl you are crazy! :) My hubby and I are definitely cutting back, but I think he would freak out about stopping all eating out. I will be praying for you this month.
    We are trying to save for a house, so we are trying to be frugal too!

  40. Erin M.

    That is awesome Allison! I need to avoid those things as well – it’s so tempting to have someone else make something for you! I need to do larger scale OAMC because I know the little amount I do is a HUGE blessing to have in the freezer! Have you checked out the “Don’t Panic, It’s in the Freezer” books? They are fabulous! Lots of popular recipes in there for our house!

  41. Rebecca

    You can do it! Tim and I have totally been there with the, “We spent how much on eating out last month?” So, we also found ways to cut back. One suggestion: Organize a supper swap with some friends. It follows the OAMC idea in that you make the same freezable meal for everyone in the group (including one for you). Then, on a designated day you all swap and you come home with one of everything. When I did it there were 7 of us in the group, so I had 7 freezer meals ready to go that month. I had put in the work of making 7 meals, but they weren’t 7 different meals. This way, we had variety! We also swapped recipes, so that was good too. Plus, you got to see a group of friends while you did your swapping. Always worth it.

  42. Elizabeth

    you’ve gotten a ton of good suggestions, so you don’t need mine. i should try doing this too. but i always cave, usually on the weekend.
    crock pots are amazing. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ is a website i like to go to… it has 365 crockpot recipes.
    also, have you seen those macaroni grill kits that all you need to buy is the chicken? it makes prep a bit easier. and i am a member of a coupon website so i got $1 off coupon for that last time.

  43. sarah

    what a great idea. I’ve actually seen this a couple other places and am feeling the pang of not doing it. Of course as the mommy/wife a lot of the lunch prep falls on me (dinner we do pretty well) But lunch in LA can run $10-15, YIKES. I think Sept will be our month to try this.

  44. Yama

    It might not be easy at first, but it’s doable. And you might even grow to enjoy it a lot!

    I can only say that because we have only eaten out three times total in 18 months. ;-)

    Crockpots are your friend. BIG time. Gotta love a fix it & forget it appliance, right? That website Elizabeth above me recommended is good. The lady that did/does that blog actually printed all the recipes into a book you can get on Amazon (I have it).

    I think the once a month/twice a month cooking thing you’re doing will help a LOT too. Another thing that would help with the “Oh crud it’s 4pm, what are we going to have for dinner?” time (not that I EVER have those. Nope. Not me.) is a simple menu plan. Takes the guess work out of it for me. You can do it weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly. If you’ve got every meal (and snack) written out, it’ll help you stick to your food list and (as a result) your food budget. Well, at least it helps ME do that lol

    Just about any convenience food you like CAN be made at home … then you’re not missing anything at all!

    Some people LOVE coupons. I’m not one of them though … but that’s just because of how we cook, we NEVER see any coupons that would actually help us.

    As for your frappuccino love? Oh I totally get you there girl! TOTALLY. My husband and I used to LOVE Starbucks fraps. TOTALLY LOVE THEM.

    I’ve actually started making ours at home, though, using Courtney’s recipe: http://womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com/2010/08/tasty-tuesday-homemade-starbucks-mocha.html

    It is SO GOOD. And you can flavor it ANY way you want, so the options truly are endless.

  45. Emma

    Probably someone has already suggested this, but I tend to cook roughly one week on, one week off. The week I am cooking dinners I make double portions (actually they usually “serve 4″ anyway and we’re only two adults), and before we eat I package up half of it to freeze for the next week. That way I know I have a series of nights coming up each fortnight with little or no cooking to do.
    Well done you guys for giving up the coffees etc too…. I think our budget could use some work in that area too!

  46. Melissa

    Oh yes we have been there. Being in IT my husband always seemed to get laid off at really bad times (is there ever a good time?) like right after our wedding, or when I was pregnant.

    It’s hard. Planning and leftovers are what get us by. i don’t have the patience, or room to really do once a month cooking (and my husband is so picky about frozen meals). so we meal plan and base our meals on what meats are on sale. We cook a whole chicken at least once a week because we can get a minimum of 3 meals out of it.

    Good luck!

  47. The Mom Venture Blog

    Just wanted to let anyone who’s interested know, I just posted my own frappuccino recipe http://www.mom-venture.com/frappuccino-recipe-how-to-make-a-frappuccino/
    I used to work at my brother’s espresso stand in Salem- Coffee In Motion- So I learned how to make AWESOME drinks there! There aren’t any pictures in the post, sorry, I lost my camera battery somehow! But I love it, and it is definitely less money to make your own at home and so easy!

    Hope this isn’t tacky posting a link to my own blog, but I figured it might be helpful for those who can’t live without the espresso, but want to cut back on the cost! :)


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